First up, a quick declaration of interest. I am (slowly) working on a novel which looks at the possibilities of life extension.

I almost didn’t read Suicide Club for that reason.

But, I am really glad I did choose to read the novel. Heng can certainly write. Her prose is a thing of beauty and she can really hit the emotional high and low notes when she chooses to.

The narrative carries you along from a 100th birthday party at the outset through the ongoing investigation following a minor road traffic accident, covering off some family history, which is revealed later, with a massive emotional impact, to not be quite what we were led to think it was.

Heng creates a world which is believable, the descriptions of the crowded streets of New York are suitably claustrophobic. But, an area which could have been improved upon is the wider world building. I was not totally clear about the social structures in this near future world. Exactly what difference there is between the lives of those who have longer life and those who do not? At one point the narrative makes reference to the general population “wouldn’t touch a lifer” but it is not really clear why this might be the case. Where would this level of fear come from?

There is reference to the areas outside New York being unpopulated due to low birth rates, but it is unclear why this is the case. While I do believe writers should show rather than tell, I think Heng could have painted the wider world around her narrative in a richer way and this would have enhanced what is already an excellent narrative.

There were also a couple of instances where I was not clear why people with the potential to live forever might not want to. I guess everyone has their own reasons, but if Heng could have made it much more apparent why someone would go to the lengths required in her imagined world of healthcare, I think this would have strengthened the narrative.

Overall, the minor issues I have with the story, do not deter from the narrative enough to make it anything less than a good novel. Heng is a good writer, her style brings you along and the emotional ups and downs are enjoyable.

Her vision of life extension is based in the world of medicine and health care improvements, while my part written novel is very much not in this vein (I was worried this book would be too close to my creation, which is why I was considering not reading Suicide Club).

If you are looking for a novel which is sci-fi light, but depicts a future world with a deep emotional story, Suicide Club could be just what you are looking for.

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Read this story about robots looking after children in Metro.

It is a good point and it is news that a futurologist said this.

And for some reason they refer to a 15 plus year old movie about a robot boy.

(Incidentally the only thing in this movie which I recall being in any way ground breaking for cinema was the idea sex robots, in this case Jude Law, would exist for women.)

In mu opinion it would have made more sense to refer to Issac Asimov’s short story Robbie which was the tale of a robot childminder first published in 1940 whom a child becomes attached to.

Exact same concept (AI is more Pinocchio) and 75+ years old.

The Hobbit turned 80 this week and here is my blog post titled “An unexpected change of pace” from a couple of years ago where I re-read the classic novel by Tolkien.wp-1455455294830.jpeg

Recent events in Barcelona (thoughts with all those affected) got me thinking again about how I consume news.

I first wrote seven years ago about social media versus traditional news outlets as a source of news – blog post here.

I no longer look at news websites on a daily basis. In fact only during the football season do I look on such sites – and this is only to look at Spanish and German results, a somewhat obscure use of such a sprawling resource of information.

Last weekend I choose not to listen to the radio while driving (schedule nowhere near as good as during the week) and instead listened to Led Zeppelin IV, which |I forgot how much I liked, so kept on listening repeatedly all week as I drove.

Only after I saw reactions on Facebook to the events in Barcelona did it occur to me I hadn’t consumed any news this week I hadn’t found on social media.

I almost never read national newspapers (If I have an empty Sunday I may be the Sunday Times, but that is maybe a couple of occasions a year). Only rarely do I read a physical copy of the local paper where I live. I follow them on Facebook and I can see anything relevant to me in my stream, so why spend the 95p?

And it took a terrible event the week I skipped radio for me to notice this media was my main source of news these days outside social media. And I only catch those bulletins because they interrupt the music I listen to while driving.

But doesn’t your job involve monitoring the media for your organisation, you probably won’t ask, Well, yes it does. But I let Google Alerts take care of the media monitoring for me. Every mention pops right into my inbox and so far the alerts I have set up have never failed me.

By not watching TV news, nor reading print or websites direct, the editorial choice about what potential news stories I am served comes from the algorithms of Facebook and Twitter. I have no complaints about what I see in my feeds. But, is that because these algorithms serve me exactly the news I want because they know me, or is it because I don’t know what they don’t tell me? The answer to this is unclear to me.

What is clear as social media becomes my gateway to the world is my choices about who to follow, what I like, comment on and share feed into these algorithms which shape how I see the world.

Some of you may already have heard of Ready Player One. It is a speculative fiction novel which was released a few years ago with the name Ernest Cline on the cover.

The book is apparently being turned into a movie by no less a genius than Steven Spielberg. I see a massive box office hit.

The narrative contains a series of puzzles which need to be solved to inherit ownership of the VR system the whole world uses. There is a rival conglomerate trying a hostile takeover via attempting to win the contest.

After finishing the novel I was pondering some issues I had with it, these are around lack of depth of characters as well as a tendency towards telling not showing and it occurred to me all the gripes I had with it were the same as I had with The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

The plot of Ready Player One is straight out of the Dan Brown play book and the style of writing is quite similar in my opinion.

It is not unusual for novelists trying a different genre to be asked to use a pen name so the change in direction does not effect sales of future books back in their usual arena. Speculative fiction would be a new genre for Brown as all his works I am aware of are current day thrillers.

I may be way off base here, but did Dan Brown write Ready Player One under the pen name Ernest Cline?

If he did, is there some puzzle within the novel which can be cracked to solve the identity of the writer – from what I know of him, that would be very Dan Brown.

Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments section…

Enfield Council is to use Artificial Intelligence as part of its customer service, planned to go live in Autumn 2016.
The story is relatively straightforward in terms of innovation and positive customer experience.
But read down to the end and note the quote from the council’s opposition.
UK local authorities are facing huge financial pressure at present, so is there anything in the concerns in this article about reducing the staff numbers?
Is the opposition quote reactionary or prophetic?
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

The Swiss referendum on the basic income was backed by just under a quarter of the country’s population.
So, while it will not be introduced, a large minority of the voters see a need for it as a way of dealing with the rise of automation.

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